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A Good Man Is 
Hard To Find 

by Flannery O'Connor 



edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr. 
& Kassandra Kramer 



Thank you for downloading this Scriptor Press 

tide! Please visit Scriptor Press online for more 

great literary titles and other media. 



Portland, O r e g o k 




Scriptor Press 



A Good Man is 
Hard to Find 

by Flannery O'Connor 



edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr. 
& Kassandra Kramer 




Number Thirty-one 



A Good Man is Hard to Find 

(1953, 1954) 
by Flannery O'Connor 



Burning Man Books is 

an imprint of 

Scriptor Press 

2442 NW Market Street-#363 

Seattle, Washington 98107 

cenacle@mindspring. com 

www.geocities.com/scriptorpress 



This volume was composed 

in the AGaramond and Bellevue fonts 

in PageMaker 7.0 on the 

Macintosh G4 computer 



This volume is for Barbara, 

for teaching us how to make books 

like this one. 




The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She 
wanted to visit some of her connections in east 
Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change 
Bailey's mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He 
was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the 
orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here, Bailey," she 
said, "see here, read this," and she stood with one hand on her thin 
hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. "Here 
this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal 
Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he 
did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in 
any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn't answer 
to my conscience if I did." 

Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she wheeled around 
then and faced the children's mother, a young woman in slacks, 
whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied 
around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top 
like rabbit's ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his 
apricots out of a jar. "The children have been to Florida before," 
the old lady said. "You all ought to take them somewhere else for a 
change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. 
They never have been to east Tennessee." 

The children's mother didn't seem to hear her but the eight- 
year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, "If you 
don't want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?" He and 
the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor. 

"She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day," June Star 
said without raising her yellow head. 

"Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught 
you?" the grandmother asked. 

"I'd smack his face," John Wesley said. 

"She wouldn't stay at home for a million bucks," June Star 
said. "Afraid she'd miss something. She has to go everywhere we 

g°- 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 5 



"All right, Miss," the grandmother said. "Just remember that 
the next time you want me to curl your hair." 

June Star said her hair was naturally curly. 

The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the 
car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the 
head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was 
hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn't intend for 
the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would 
miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one 
of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, 
Bailey, didn't like to arrive at a motel with a cat. 

She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and 
June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children's mother 
and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five 
with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this 
down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many 
miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty 
minutes to reach the outskirts of the city. 

The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white 
cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in 
front of the back window. The children's mother still had on slacks 
and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the 
grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of 
white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white 
dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed 
with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of 
cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone 
seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was 
a lady. 

She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, 
neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the 
speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid 
themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped 
out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed 



6 • Flannery O'Connor 



out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue 
granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; 
the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the 
various crops that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. 
The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of 
them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and 
their mother had gone back to sleep. 

"Let's go through Georgia fast so we won't have to look at it 
much," John Wesley said. 

"If I were a little boy," said the grandmother, "I wouldn't 
talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains 
and Georgia has the hills." 

"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground," John Wesley 
said, "and Georgia is a lousy state too." 

"You said it," June Star said. 

"In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veined 
fingers, "children were more respectful of their native states and 
their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look 
at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro 
child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, 
now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro 
out of the back window. He waved. 

"He didn't have any britches on," June Star said. 

"He probably didn't have any," the grandmother explained. 
"Little niggers in the country don't have things like we do. If I 
could paint, I'd paint that picture," she said. 

The children exchanged comic books. 

The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children's 
mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her 
knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were 
passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck 
her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he 
gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five 
or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. "Look at 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 7 



the graveyard!" the grandmother said, pointing it out. "That was 
the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation." 

"Where's the plantation?" John Wesley asked. 

"Gone With the Wind," said the grandmother. "Ha. Ha." 

When the children finished all the comic books they had 
brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a 
peanut butter sandwich and an olive and would not let the children 
throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there 
was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and 
making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley 
took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John 
Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn't play 
fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother. 

The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they 
would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and 
waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she 
was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins 
Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking 
man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every 
Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T Well, one 
Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and 
there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and 
returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the watermelon, 
she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. 
T! This story tickled John Wesley's funny bone and he giggled and 
giggled but June Star didn't think it was any good. She said she 
wouldn't marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on 
Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry 
Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca- 
Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few 
years ago, a very wealthy man. 

They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The 
Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance 
hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red 



8 • Flannery O'Connor 



Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on 
the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY 
RED SAMMY'S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE 
FAMOUS RED SAMMY'S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH 
THE HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY'S YOUR 
MAN! 

Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside The Tower 
with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot 
high, chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby. The 
monkey sprang back into the tree and got on the highest limb as 
soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward 
him. 

Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at 
one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle. 
They all sat down at a board table next to the nickelodeon and 
Red Sam's wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter 
than her skin, came and took their order. The children's mother 
put a dime in the machine and played "The Tennessee Waltz," and 
the grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance. 
She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he only glared at 
her. He didn't have a naturally sunny disposition like she did and 
trips made him nervous. The grandmother's brown eyes were very 
bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she 
was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could 
tap to so the children's mother put in another dime and played a 
fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and 
did her tap routine. 

"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over the counter. 
"Would you like to come be my little girl?" 

"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't live in 
a broken-down place like this for a minion bucks!" and she ran 
back to the table. 

"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her mouth 
politely. 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 9 



"Arn't you ashamed?" hissed the grandmother. 

Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the 
counter and hurry up with these people's order. His khaki trousers 
reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like 
a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat down 
at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. "You 
can't win," he said. "You can't win," and he wiped his sweating red 
face off with a gray handkerchief. "These days you don't know 
who to trust," he said. "Ain't that the truth?" 

"People are certainly not nice like they used to be," said the 
grandmother. 

"Two fellers come in here last week," Red Sammy said, 
"driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it was a good one 
and these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked at the mill 
and you know I let them fellers charge the gas they bought? Now 
why did I do that?" 

"Because you're a good man!" the grandmother said at once. 

"Yes'm, I suppose so," Red Sam said as if he were struck with 
this answer. 

His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at 
once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her 
arm. "It isn't a soul in this green world of God's that you can trust," 
she said. "And I don't count nobody out of that, not nobody," she 
repeated, looking at Red Sammy. 

"Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that's 
escaped?" asked the grandmother. 

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn't attact this place 
right here," said the woman. "If he hears about it being here, I 
wouldn't be none surprised to see him. If he hears it's two cent in 
the cash register, I wouldn't be a tall surprised if he . . ." 

"That'll do," Red Sam said. "Go bring these people their 
Co'-Colas," and the woman went off to get the rest of the order. 

"A good man is hard to find," Red Sammy said. "Every- thing 
is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave 



10 • Flannery O'Connor 



your screen door unlatched. Not no more." 

He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady 
said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way 
things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think 
we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking 
about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the 
white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry 
tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one 
carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy. 

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The 
grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with 
her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled 
an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once 
when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white 
columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks 
leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side 
in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the 
garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She 
knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at 
an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted 
to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still 
standing. "There was a secret panel in this house," she said craftily, 
not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story 
went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman 
came through but it was never found ..." 

"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll 
poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you 
turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?" 

"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star 
shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, 
can't we go see the house with the secret panel!" 

"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It 
wouldn't take over twenty minutes." 

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 11 



horseshoe. "No," he said. 

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to 
see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back 
of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder 
and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun 
even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted 
to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back 
of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney. 

"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side 
of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one 
second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere." 

"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother 
murmured. 

"All right," Bailey said, "but get this: this is the only time 
we're going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only 
time." 

"The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile 
back," the grandmother directed. "I marked it when we passed." 

"A dirt road," Bailey groaned. 

After they had turned around and were headed toward the 
dirt road, the grandmother recalled other points about the house, 
the beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in 
the hall. John Wesley said that the secret panel was probably in the 
fireplace. 

"You can't go inside this house," Bailey said. "You don't know 
who lives there." 

"While you all talk to the people in front, I'll run around 
behind and get in a window," John Wesley suggested. 

"We'll all stay in the car," his mother said. They turned onto 
the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink 
dust. The grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved 
roads and thirty miles was a day's journey. The dirt road was hilly 
and there were sudden washes in it and sharp curves on dangerous 
embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down 



12 • Flannery O'Connor 



over the blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute, 
they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking 
down on them. 

"This place had better turn up in a minute," Bailey said, "or 
I'm going to turn around." 

The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months. 

"It's not much farther," the grandmother said and just as she 
said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so 
embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated 
and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The 
instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket 
under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's 
shoulder. 

The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, 
clutching the baby, was thrown out the door onto the ground; the 
old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once 
and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey 
remained in the driver's seat with the cat — gray-striped with a broad 
white face and an orange nose — clinging to his neck like a 
caterpillar. 

As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and 
legs, they scrambled out of the car, shouting, "We've had an 
ACCIDENT!" The grandmother was curled up under the 
dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey's wrath would 
not come down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had 
had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so 
vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee. 

Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and 
flung it out the window against the side of a pine tree. Then he got 
out of the car and started looking for the children's mother. She 
was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the 
screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken 
shoulder. "We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed in 
a frenzy of delight. 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 13 



"But nobody's killed," June Star said with disappointment 
as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to 
her head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle 
and the violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the 
ditch, except the children, to recover from the shock. They were 
all shaking. 

"Maybe a car will come along," said the children's mother 
hoarsely. 

"I believe I have injured an organ," said the grandmother, 
pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey's teeth were 
clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots 
designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The 
grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house 
was in Tennessee. 

The road was about ten feet above and they could see only 
the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they 
were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In 
a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, 
coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The 
grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract 
their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared 
around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of 
the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like 
automobile. There were three men in it. 

It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the 
driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they 
were sitting, and didn't speak. Then he turned his head and 
muttered something to the other two and they got out. One was a 
fat boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion 
embossed on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of 
them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose 
grin. The other had on khaki pants and a blue striped coat and a 
gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came 
around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke. 



14 • Flannery O'Connor 



The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it, 
looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. 
His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver- rimmed 
spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased 
face and didn't have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue 
jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and 
a gun. The two boys also had guns. 

"We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed. 

The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the 
bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar 
to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall 
who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come 
down the embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn't 
slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles 
were red and thin. "Good afternoon," he said. "I see you all had 
you a little spill." 

"We turned over twice!" said the grandmother. 

"Once," he corrected. "We seen it happen. Try their car and 
see will it run, Hiram," he said quietly to the boy with the gray 
hat. 

"What you got that gun for?" John Wesley asked. "Whatcha 
gonna do with that gun?" 

"Lady," the man said to the children's mother, "would you 
mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make 
me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there 
where you're at." 

"What are you telling US what to do for?" June Star asked. 

Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. 
"Come here," said their mother. 

"Look here now," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a 
predicament! We're in . . ." 

The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and 
stood staring. "You're The Misfit!" she said. "I recognized you at 



once! 



!" 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 15 



"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased 
in spite of himself to be known, "but it would have been better for 
all of you, lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me." 

Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his 
mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry 
and The Misfit reddened. 

"Lady," he said, "don't you get upset. Sometimes a man says 
things he don't mean. I don't reckon he meant to talk to you 
thataway" 

"You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you?" the grandmother 
said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and began to 
slap at her eyes with it. 

The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and 
made a little hole and then covered it up again. "I would hate to 
have to," he said. 

"Listen," the grandmother almost screamed, "I know you're 
a good man. You don't look a bit like you have common blood. I 
know you must come from nice people!" 

"Yes mam," he said, "finest people in the world." When he 
smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. "God never made a 
finer woman than my mother and my daddy's heart was pure gold," 
he said. The boy with the red sweatshirt had come around behind 
them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted 
down on the ground. "Watch them children, Bobby Lee," he said. 
"You know they make me nervous." He looked at the six of them 
huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed 
as if he couldn't think of anything to say. "Ain't a cloud in the sky," 
he remarked, looking up at it. "Don't see no sun but don't see no 
cloud neither." 

"Yes, it's a beautiful day," said the grandmother. "Listen," 
she said, "you shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know 
you're a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell." 

"Hush!" Bailey yelled. "Hush! Everybody shut up and let me 



16 • Flannery O'Connor 



handle this!" He was squatting in the position of a runner about to 
sprint forward but he didn't move. 

"I prechate that, lady," The Misfit said and drew a little 
circle in the ground with the butt of his gun. 

"It'll take a half a hour to fix this here car," Hiram called, 
looking over the raised hood of it. 

"Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to 
step over yonder with you," The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey 
and John Wesley. "The boys want to ast you some- thing," he said 
to Bailey. "Would you mind stepping back in them woods there 
with them?" 

"Listen," Bailey began, "we're in a terrible predicament! 
Nobody realizes what this is," and his voice cracked. His eyes were 
as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained 
perfectly still. 

The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she 
were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand. She 
stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground. 
Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old 
man. John Wesley caught hold of his father's hand and Bobby Lee 
followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they reached 
the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray 
naked pine trunk, he shouted, "I'll be back in a minute, Mamma, 
wait on me!" 

"Come back this instant!" his mother shrilled but they all 
disappeared into the woods. 

"Bailey Boy!" the grandmother called in a tragic voice but 
she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground 
in front of her. "I just know you're a good man," she said desperately. 
"You're not a bit common!" 

"Nome, I ain't a good man," The Misfit said after a second 
as if he had considered her statement carefully, "but I ain't the 
worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed 
of dog from my brothers and sisters. 'You know,' Daddy said, 'it's 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 17 



some that can live their whole life out without asking about it and 
it's others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters. 
He's going to be into everything!'" He put on his black hat and 
looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he 
were embarrassed again. "I'm sorry I don't have on a shirt before 
you ladies," he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. "We buried 
our clothes that we had on when we escaped and we're just making 
do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some folks we 
met," he explained. 

"That's perfectly all right," the grandmother said. "Maybe 
Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase." 

"I'll look and see terrectly," The Misfit said. 

"Where are they taking him?" the children's mother screamed. 

"Daddy was a card himself," The Misfit said. "You couldn't 
put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the 
Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them." 

"You could be honest too if you'd only try," said the 
grandmother. "Think how wonderful it would be to settle down 
and live a comfortable life and not have to think about somebody 
chasing you all the time." 

The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of 
his gun as if he were thinking about it. "Yes'm, somebody is always 
after you," he murmured. 

The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were 
just behind-his hat because she was standing up looking down on 
him. "Do you ever pray?" she asked. 

He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle 
between his shoulder blades. "Nome," he said. 

There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by 
another. Then silence. The old lady's head jerked around. She could 
hear the wind move through the treetops like a long satisfied insuck 
of breath. "Bailey Boy!" she called. 

"I was a gospel singer for a while," The Misfit said. "I been 
most everything. Been in the arm service, both land and sea, at 



18 • Flannery O'Connor 



home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been 
with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen 
a man burnt alive oncet," and he looked up at the children's mother 
and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white 
and their eyes glassy; "I even seen a woman flogged," he said. 

"Pray, pray," the grandmother began, "pray, pray ..." 

"I never was a bad boy that I remember of," The Misfit said 
in an almost dreamy voice, "but somewheres along the line I done 
something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried 
alive," and he looked up and held her attention to him by a steady 
stare. 

"That's when you should have started to pray," she said "What 
did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?" 

"Turn to the right, it was a wall," The Misfit said, looking 
up again at the cloudless sky. "Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look 
up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done, 
lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I 
done and I ain't recalled it to this day. Oncet in a while, I would 
think it was coming to me, but it never come." 

"Maybe they put you in by mistake," the old lady said vaguely. 

"Nome," he said. "It wasn't no mistake. They had the papers 
on me." 

"You must have stolen something," she said. 

The Misfit sneered slightly. "Nobody had nothing I wanted," 
he said. "It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had 
done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died 
in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a 
thing to do with it. He was buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist 
churchyard and you can go there and see for yourself." 

"If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would help 
you." 

"That's right," The Misfit said. 

"Well then, why don't you pray?" she asked trembling with 
delight suddenly. 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 19 



"I don't want no hep," he said. "I'm doing all right by myself." 

Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the woods. 
Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in 
it. 

"Thow me that shirt, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. The shirt 
came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on. 
The grandmother couldn't name what the shirt reminded her of. 
"No, lady," The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, "I found 
out the crime don't matter. You can do one thing or you can do 
another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later 
you're going to forget what it was you done and just be punished 
for it." 

The children's mother had begun to make heaving noises as 
if she couldn't get her breath. "Lady," he asked, "would you and 
that little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram 
and join your husband?" 

"Yes, thank you," the mother said faintly. Her left arm dangled 
helplessly and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in 
the other. "Hep that lady up, Hiram," The Misfit said as she 
struggled to climb out of the ditch, "and Bobby Lee, you hold 
onto that little girl's hand." 

"I don't want to hold hands with him," June Star said. "He 
reminds me of a pig." 

The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by the arm 
and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother. 

Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had 
lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There 
was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he 
must pray She opened and closed her mouth several times before 
anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," 
meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it 
sounded as if she might be cursing. 

"Yes'm," The Misfit said as if he agreed. "Jesus shown 
everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me 



20 • Flannery O'Connor 



except He hadn't committed any crime and they could prove I had 
committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course," he 
said, "they never shown me my papers. That's why I sign myself 
now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything 
you do and keep a copy of it. Then you'll know what you done 
and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they 
match and in the end you'll have something to prove you ain't 
been treated right. I call myself The Misfit," he said, "because I 
can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in 
punishment." 

There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely 
by a pistol report. "Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is 
punished a heap and another ain't punished at all?" 

"Jesus!" the old lady cried. "You've got good blood! I know 
you wouldn't shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! 
Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I'll give you all the 
money I've got!" 

"Lady," The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the 
woods, "there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip." 

There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother 
raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and 
called, "Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break. 

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit 
continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything 
off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do 
but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then 
it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left 
the best way you can — by killing somebody or burning down his 
house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but 
meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl. 

"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled, 
not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she 
sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her. 

"I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't," The Misfit said. "I 



A Good Man is Hard to Find • 21 



wisht I had of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist. 
"It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would 
of known. Listen lady," he said in a high voice, "if I had of been 
there I would of known and I wouldn't be like I am now." His 
voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head cleared 
for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own as if 
he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my 
babies. You're one of my own children!" She reached out and 
touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake 
had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then 
he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and 
began to clean them. 

Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood 
over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and 
half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a 
child's and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky. 

Without his glasses, The Misfit's eyes were red-rimmed and 
pale and defenseless-looking. "Take her off and thow her where 
you shown the others," he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing 
itself against his leg. 

"She was a talker, wasn't she?" Bobby Lee said, sliding down 
the ditch with a yodel. 

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it 
had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." 

"Some fun!" Bobby Lee said. 

"Shut up, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure 
in life." 



22 • Flannery O'Connor